European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate-General, better known as ECHO, yesterday in Brussels officialy marked its 20th anniversary. The celebratory event was opened by European Commission President Jose Barroso together with Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva. ECHO is one of the most visible symbols of European Union values and solidarity both inside Europe and in the World at large, President Barroso pointed out. ‘We have indeed come a long way. In 1992 ECHO was a small office with about 40 people. Today, we have about 300 highly dedicated staff at the headquarters and over 400 people working in over 40 field offices around the globe. I would like to pay homage to their hard work, dedication and courage,’ said President Barroso.
‘European solidarity is strong and tough times bring out the best of our people. This is good news for the hundreds of millions – children, men and women – who fall victim to devastating conflicts and natural disasters. They rarely have access to the high corridors of power and yet thanks to this solidarity their voices are heard and their needs are met,’ said Commissioner Georgieva.
The event fostered discussions between leading figures from the humanitarian community including the past and present commissioners in charge of ECHO, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Jakob Kellenberger, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, and the Secretary General on the Norwegian Refugee Council Elisabeth Rasmusson. Discussions focused on the EU and its members’ role in helping vulnerable people in crises and how crisis response has reformed in the last two decades as well as on changes and challenges the future brings for the humanitarian community.